Gustave François Kindt (1835-1910), aka Isidore Marechal, French Gus, Frenchy — Thief, Toolmaker, Inventor
Gustave F. Kindt was an expert machinist and a master of prison escapes, perhaps the most intelligent criminal in Chief Byrnes’ “rogue’s gallery.” Kindt’s first confirmed presence was in Brooklyn, in 1867. He placed an ad in the New York Herald, looking for any information on his brothers Joseph and Charles–apparently they emigrated separately. Kindt described his original country as Belgium (but, when posing as Frenchman Isidore Marechal, claimed to be from Lille, France.) He was said to have been trained as a watchmaker.
In 1867, he joined a jewelry-making company in Brooklyn, working in their metal shop. Years later, the Cincinnati Enquirer recounted how Kindt robbed his workplace:
Kindt tried to implicate a co-worker–Jeannot–in the crime; this despite the fact that the Jeannot family had housed Kindt and his wife, and had helped him try to find his brothers.
For this crime, Kindt was sentenced to ten years in Sing Sing. In Sing Sing, he was able to craft a tiny saw, parts of which he secreted in one of his own molars that he had pulled out and hollowed. In February 1871, he sawed through three door locks and escaped from the prison and headed to New Jersey. Within six days, he found a new job at a Hackensack NJ jewelry manufacturer. He was hired, given a raise, and reconnected with his wife. While still working his job, he and his wife opened a lager hall across from his workplace. However, temptation beckoned, and Kindt open the safe of his employer and took $8000. The owner called in local police, who were stumped; they called in New York detectives, one of whom had worked on the similar Brooklyn case. Kindt was collared and reinstalled in Sing Sing to serve out his earlier sentence.
In November 1875, Kindt escaped from Sing Sing a second time–the only man ever to do so. This time, he was aided by a corrupt guard, who allowed Kindt to hide in a prison workshop instead of being returned to his cell. From the workshop, Kindt was able to get off the prison grounds, and made his way north to Canada. There, he used his French language skills to assume the alias of Isidore Marechal. About a year later, in November 1876, Kindt picked the lock of a pawnshop, opened the safe with a duplicate key he had made, and took about $20,000 in jewelry, watches, silverware, and bank notes. He melted down the metals into bricks, and sent an accomplice to New York to sell the precious stones. However, a suspicious cleaning lady tipped off authorities, and evidence was found in Kindt’s rooms. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to the Provincial Prison for three years.
Upon his release in 1879, he robbed a Montreal store of $4000 worth of silks. After fencing the goods, he headed back across the border into Vermont, shedding the “Isidore Marechal” alias and becoming “Gus Kent.” The silks were traced back to Kindt through a woman he had been intimate with in Montreal; she told Montreal detectives that he could be found in St. Albans, Vermont. They contacted the sheriff of St. Albans, who found that Kindt had been working in a machine shop there for six weeks. He was arrested; in his rooms they found a new set of safe-cracking tools that indicated he was about to commit another robbery. A message was sent to Sing Sing that an officer should come to retrieve Kindt and take him back to that prison.
An officer arrived to take possession of Kindt, and they boarded a train heading south to Troy, New York, where they needed to switch trains. They were delayed in Troy for several hours, and as they waited in the station, Kindt attacked the officer and tried to make a dash for freedom. They wrestled for several minutes, and finally the officer was able to pull out his revolver and shoot Kindt. The bullet glanced his head, causing a serious wound. He was bandaged and placed on the train the next day, but when he arrived at Sing Sing, there were doubts he would survive.
Imprisoned in Sing Sing once more, Kindt used his time productively. He observed that the workshop and exercise periods wasted much time with the unlocking and locking of individual cell doors. He drew a diagram for a mechanism that would allow one guard to lock or unlock a whole row of cells at one time. He obtained a US patent for his invention, and tried to give it to the warden in exchange for a commuted sentence. The request went up to Governor Tilden, who turned down the offer. However, Kindt was later able to sell the rights to prisons in Great Britain.
Kindt was in and out of prison two more times (in 1885 and 1892), and was arrested again in 1900, but escaped conviction. His final years were spend in Philadelphia, where the city directories listed him as “inventor” or “mechanic.” He was known to be a manufacturer of burglar and safe-cracker tools. He obtained a second patent for an improvement to his cell-block locking mechanism in 1898. He died in Philadelphia in 1910, age 75.